As much as Arsène attempts to say otherwise, it is very difficult to view this afternoons match in isolation. With the Barcelona and Everton fixtures lurking in the background, the manager will have little choice but to plan how best to use his squad during such a critical week of football.
Having back to back FA Cup ties due to somewhat messy rescheduling of the fixtures, feels a little strange. It is also a little strange to me that victory today books Arsenal a place in the semi finals of the competition. Has it really gone that quickly? It almost feels like yesterday (sort of) that we demolished Aston Villa to lift the trophy for the second consecutive season. Today we are rightly favourites to return to Wembley once more.
Arsène must be scratching his head a little, before the season starts the FA cup is obviously 3rd on the list of priorities, fast forward to March and the FA cup is by some distance our most realistic chance of silverware. That said even if we are not favourites to win the Premier League, imagine if we threw in the towel as so many fans have suggested we do, so we can put all our eggs in the FA cup basket and then Leicester City and Tottenham go on to drop points in consecutive matches.
To be fair, I think the main concern from supporters is that we expend too much energy in the Camp Nou (or is it Nou Camp?) only for us to suffer in Saturday's match against Everton.
I understand why some folk want us to send out an under strength side at Barcelona so we can be fresh for Saturday's early kick off, in many ways I want that also but I think that sends out the wrong message entirely. We fight hard every season to get into a competition that we give up with a second leg to play. I don't imagine Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and co would be too chuffed about that.
Basically I have just rattled on for over 300 words when I could have just said, Arsène has a selection dilemma on his hands.
It will certainly be interesting to see which way Arsène goes with the team today as the big guns were rested at Hull City. But Barcelona and Everton will require an almighty physical effort.
Mohammed Elneny has not played much football since joining us and he also came to us after a nice winter break. He also apparently has an massive engine (no, that's not a euphemism) so I think he might play 90 minutes in all three matches. Francis Coquelin has also missed a chunk of the season, not only that but he gave himself a 125 minute break following his red card at Tottenham.
Laurent Koscielny trained with the team after injury but I don't imagine he will be risked for today, especially considering that both Mertesacker and Gabriel are included in the squad after some injury action at Hull.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
I've changed my mind, I reckon we will see a strong team after all LOLZ etc..
After Arsène's comments about boom boom boom (gotta get that) Giroud, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Frenchman kept in the team to see if he can continue scoring goals again. Anyway Welbeck will be saved for Barcelona, where he can tear them to shreds, scoring four counter attacking goals or something.
If we don't take Watford seriously today, we could get undone. They are pretty comfortable in the Premier League so they can afford to focus on giving everything to knock us out, it's not as if our home form has been very scary of late. Well it has for us but that's not what I meant.
We need that to change that and quickly if we are to have a positive end of season run in.
I'd also be pretty chuffed if everyone focused on the team and left the banners at home for this one. You know, positively supporting the players and giving them the whole encouragement stuff but that's just my opinion, I'm old fashioned like that.
Anyway, let's hope the Hull City result can kick start this team into better performances, once that happens the fans will be spurred on and positive vibes can flow through the stadium. We will then have a better chance of winning games. I'd sign up for that.
Fingers crossed we do the business today.